Belfast Telegraph

Bank reimburses 300,000 customers

Ulster Bank has paid more than £18 million to almost 300,000 Northern Ireland customers hit by IT problems over the summer.

Thousands were unable to withdraw cash or access their accounts for weeks after maintenance on the system caused computer problems on June 19.

Half those paid received £20 after they had to call into a branch to get cash. The rest had account management fees waived for three months, redressed for lost interest and reimbursed out of pocket expenses, Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown said.

"It is true that the incident was a major disaster, there is no doubt about that," he said.

Bank executives apologised for the length of time the crisis lasted, when other members of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) banking group resolved the same issue within days. Top executives offered to forfeit their bonuses and thousands of customers have left the bank since the crisis.

Mr Brown told a joint meeting of Stormont's Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee: "It is also clear we had issues with the contingency plan relating to our systems operating as they should have, because our systems were down and could not process transactions for quite a few days."

Ulster Bank was quickly able to extend branch opening hours and bring extra staff into its call centre, he said. Customers received £20 in compensation if they visited the bank between June 19 and July 18 and made a transaction.

The bank also said it will reimburse all "reasonable out-of-pocket expenses" resulting from the major disruption. It has since been criticised by politicians, business leaders and consumer bodies for initiating only a reimbursement scheme rather than offering any wider compensation.

Mr Brown said all customers are being returned to the financial position they would have been in had the incident not happened and are receiving fair redress for inconvenience caused. He apologised unreservedly to all those affected.

The bank said it has revised key processes to take into account the impact on customers and strengthened testing procedures, as well as introduced additional monitoring during processing of the day's payments. The Financial Services Authority is conducting an independent investigation and has interviewed senior Ulster Bank staff.

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